Marcus Smith is not expected to start when the season begins, but defensive coordinator Bill Davis said that the first-round pick learned the Eagles defense "fairly quickly." The team is employing him in much the same way he was used at Louisville.
Smith has mostly lined up with the third-team defense in the "Jack" role - the spot occupied by linebacker Connor Barwin with the starters. He occasionally played on the second team during the first two days of practice. Davis said Smith might get work with the first team - or at least go against the first-team offense.
"We do have to roll him in, and that's part of the reason you'll see him running at times with the ones against our tackles, so we can evaluate him against some of the best tackles in the business," Davis said. "Over there against [left tackle ]Jason [Peters], you're not going to get any better work than going daily day in, day out against him."
Davis is trying to develop depth so the defense can play more personnel groupings than it did last season, when DeMeco Ryans and Barwin both surpassed 1,100 plays. The Eagles installed a new defense, and mismatched personnel limited Davis to a base formation and a nickel formation. He expects to expand on that this season.
"We've grown it in a way that we didn't take away what we did last year," Davis said. "We just saw some holes and maybe where game plan tools we didn't have, we've added them in the offseason."
Pads on Monday
The Eagles will wear pads Monday for the first time, but they won't tackle to the ground. Even though Andy Reid's camps featured tackling, Davis said most teams that he has coached did not tackle in camp because of the chance of injury.
The Eagles struggled with tackling in their 2013 preseason opener but improved and were stronger in the regular season. Davis said that was because of consistent tackling instruction.
"I think all of us in the NFL anymore are getting better and better at teaching tackling and working on tackling without the tackling-to-the-ground element," Davis said. "A lot of that is body placement, coming into balance. You'll see that we have our guys two-hand tag below the waist. If you can two-hand a runner like [LeSean McCoy] below the waist, your body is in a position to tackle him."
Defensive lineman Bennie Logan did not practice because of a hamstring injury. Logan did not sound concerned after practice. . . . Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin practiced one year to the date he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. "It's been so long, but I remember it like it's yesterday," Maclin said. "It's pretty cool. I'm happy to be healthy."